Local concert series takes listeners on a journey of discovery
Stroll into Santa Ynez’s Maverick Saloon on just about any day of the week, and you will find yourself in an archetypical western bar. Dollar bills hang from the ceiling, neon beer signs illuminate the windows, skulls and antlers adorn the walls, and if live country music isn’t emanating from the stage, then it’s blasting from the jukebox.
But all that changes on a handful of Wednesday nights every spring and fall when the rustic saloon is transformed into an intimate listening room.
Tales From the Tavern is a biannual concert series that has introduced some of contemporary music’s most lauded singer-songwriters to Santa Ynez Valley since its beginning in 2003. Started by valley-based siblings Ron and Carole Ann Colone, the series features performers who hail from across the musical spectrum.
“The genre of music isn’t as important as the message the artist brings,” explains co-founder Ron Colone as he sits on the patio of the Maverick Saloon.
“We’ve had people like Chris Hillman, David Crosby and Donovan—true musical icons—but we’ve also had people like Beth Orton, Bonnie Prince Billy, Malcolm Holcombe and Ryan Bingham before he broke out. These are all artists who make their living on the road, and we want them to come and share their journey with our audience.”
Tales From the Tavern’s journey of discovery started in a tent behind Los Olivos’s Mattei’s Tavern on a wet and windy night in February 2003. Since Ramblin’ Jack Elliott kicked off the series, more than 150 musicians have followed in his footsteps—and not just any musicians, mind you; what the Colones seek to present is a musical experience that is as intimate as it is enlightening.
“We try to create the best listening environment in which to do that, and the best part is that the audience at Tales From the Tavern gets it,” Colone says. “They invest in the performance, and as a result, the artist invests in them.”
Tales From the Tavern hosts two series each year, typically taking place across six Wednesday nights each spring and fall.
They push the pool table to the back of the room, turn off the glowing neon, hang drapes around the stage and fill the room with around 230 seats.
With candles glowing as an artist takes the stage, you can literally hear a pin drop. For Tales From the Tavern alumni and Toad the Wet Sprocket front man Glen Phillips, it’s an environment made for connecting.
“Listening rooms are my favorite rooms to play,” says Phillips, who has a new solo album pending, as well as a summer Toad the Wet Sprocket tour in the works. “People lean forward and listen harder when you play a new song and sing along enthusiastically on the old and familiar ones.
“I enjoy being out there and doing the rock thing, but there’s a whole different level of intimacy when it’s stripped down. People get to go deeper into the songs, and I get to join them there. They also tend to have better wine than nightclubs.”
The spring Tales From the Tavern music series line-up includes: Glen Phillips (Feb. 10); Steve Poltz (Feb. 24); Danny Kortchmar, Steve Postell and Dan Navarro (Mar. 9); David Lindley (Mar. 23); Chris Smither (Apr. 6) and The Quebe Sisters (Apr. 10). All performances are at the Maverick Saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez. For more information, visit talesfromthetavern.com or call 805/688-0383.
Originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.